Labelling of loads

As an employer, you must protect workers from the risk of injury from manual handling. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations require you to take appropriate steps to provide general indications and, where it is reasonably practicable to do so, precise information on:

  • the weight of each load, and
  • the heaviest side of any load whose centre of gravity is not positioned centrally.

When to mark a load

When thinking about whether to mark a load:

  • you only have to label a load if there is a risk of injury and it is reasonably practicable to do so
  • you do not have to provide this information if it would not be reasonably practicable to do this

What information to include

If it is reasonably practicable to give precise information, you should, but usually quoting weights to the nearest kilogram or two is enough. You should indicate the heaviest side, if the load is enough out of balance to take handlers by surprise.

If it is not reasonably practicable to give precise information, it is enough for you to provide general indications about the weight (and heaviest sides, if applicable) of the typical kinds of loads to be handled in a job.

Information about weight should warn handlers quickly when a load is heavy. So when you do label loads you should put the information where it will be easily seen and understood. A good example is marking heavy bags at airports. Consider whether non-English speakers may handle the load.

Marking the weight on the load itself can be a good way to give precise information, but it is not required by law.

You could also alert workers on a screen or voice picking headset when scanning bar codes/QR codes, or remind workers verbally, or using a poster.

Manufacturers and suppliers

There is no specific duty on manufacturers or suppliers to mark weights on loads. But they have a general legal duty to protect people who may be affected by handling loads they have supplied. So, to help duty holders further down the supply chain, they should mark weights (and, if relevant, information about the heaviest side) on loads, if this can be done easily.

Loads which are pushed or pulled

For tasks that involve just pushing or pulling without any lifting or carrying, you may not have to provide weight information, because the weight of each item is not so relevant to the risk. What matters is how much force you need to move the load, which depends on things like:

  • whether the load can be wheeled or if it has to be slid or dragged
  • the design of the trolley and its suitability for the load
  • the condition of the trolley (wheels and handles)
  • how smooth the floor is and whether it is level or sloping

You do not have to give information about pushing and pulling forces to workers. Instead, concentrate on reducing risks by providing suitable trolleys and working conditions.

Train staff not to overload their trolleys, for example how to know when they reach the safe working load for the equipment they are using.

HSE's guidance on the Manual Handling Regulations and the risk assessment tool for pushing and pulling operations (the RAPP tool) gives more information.

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Updated 2024-03-25